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Language as a Resource of Internal and International Relations of "Nations Without States"

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language as a resource of internal and international activity of “nations without states”.

bulat n. khalitov, kazan state power engineering university, kazan, russia

The issues of language and language policy have become the objects of interest of different branches of political theory nowadays. From one side the basic reason for this is the fact that language can play an important role (either positive or negative) in the context of different political processes developing in the world and also in the context of a growing number of confrontations and conflicts, which often have linguistic diversity at their basis. From the other side, the development of political theory within the framework of general “linguistic turn” that influenced almost all social sciences leads to the studying of language policy aspects. In modern world linguistic diversity and other language issues have turned into a significant basis of contradictions that influence stability of different societies. In Western Europe we can distinguish several types of unsolved problems which have to do with language. Diachronically the most important and most severe are conflicts between the dominant language group and various linguistic minorities historically rooted in some areas within the state borders. As an example we can name linguistic conflicts in Belgium (Flanders), Spain (Catalonia and Basque country), Italy (South Tirol), Switzerland (french- and italian-speaking cantons). Linguistic conflicts in general grow more intense when the dominant linguistic group tends to impose its language as a state one on the whole territory of the state, including the regions that minorities view as their historical homeland. Such hegemonic language policy normally conveys strong opposition – from occasional protests to separatist movements. In this case the state and its leadership have to develop an appropriate language policy and to make a serious decision whether to pressure the linguistic minority or to provide it with broadened powers in order to maintain the stability. The fact is, that the debates and discussions concerning regional languages never represent mere discussions “about language”, because linguistic minorities are likely to represent ethnic minorities. They view themselves not only as the group which uses a distinct language, but also as a distinct nation which exists within the borders of a larger state. For a linguistic minority the recognition of its language is perceived as a way of recognition of its nation. That is, the acknowledgement of the variety of languages is a move towards the acknowledgement of the variety of nations. Today different regions across the world are trying to identify themselves and to raise their status within the country, as well as to communicate and maintain relations with regions and countries outside their state, developing a parallel diplomacy or paradiplomacy as it is called by a number of scholars[1]. Nowadays Europe is involved in the policy of “merging” planned for the period 2007-2013, which implies the steady integration of the European territories with the help of transboundary and trans-national cooperation. According to this policy the European Commission proposed to create a new legal instrument of transboundary cooperation regulation (the so-called ‘transboundary right of the regions’), that promote the development of cooperation between he neighboring regions. In some sense the old Westphalian model and the idea of “great system of states” is currently giving place to the new forms of “transnational” democracy and “post-national” citizenship, a case represented by the European Union. This tendency may often lead to a converse effect when the ethnic minority starts perceiving itself not as a part of some bigger state but as a separate unity characterized by a proper self-identification and seeking to minimize or to completely get rid of state control presenting itself to the world as an independent political actor of international relations. Many regions of the European Union, which sometimes call themselves “nations without states” [2], declare their own outstanding political status within the state and also try to gain as much autonomy and independence as possible. So today in the EU we witness a serious contradiction between the movement towards more profound and multilevel integration of the European territories by means of transboundary cooperation of the regions from one hand, and the policy of uniformity of the economic development of regions with a tendency to reinforce the role of the national state from the other. One of the most common forms of realization of ethnic minority political activity are the demands, expressed by different political parties or other institutions, to grant more autonomy to the region and enlarge their independence from the central government. This is clearly the case of Flanders in Belgium, Wales in Great Britain, Basque country, Galicia and Catalonia in Spain. Many regions of European states (though forming part of the corresponding state) have a longer history than the states they constitute, and their community can be much more established and firm than the vast community of the national state. Their borders, their political structure and their ethno-cultural space are more stable than the ones of the state. Some of the ethnic minorities tend to obtain legal status and international recognition of their regions as independent political actors of international relations or even a status of full-fledged nation lacking in its proper state; others are looking for international recognition without moving towards separatism.

In my paper I’d like to dwell on two main issues. I’d like to examine the language of ethnic minority (or the minority language) in two perspectives: 1. As a resource for different activities of internal political groups (parties, blocks, movements etc) supporting and proclaiming an outstanding status of their minorities, presenting the language as an integral part of their “nation” and using the struggle for the language rights as a basis for the struggle for the rights of their “nation”. 2. As a powerful and important factor of international activity of ethnic minority, when it is the language that helps regions to form the relationships between one another and even to organize the trans-national integration systems. As an example I’d like to examine the Catalan language and catalan ethnic minority of Spain. Catalan possesses great history and it is spread in various Mediterranean countries with a total territory of some 68.000 square km. with a population of 11.380.000. The territory where Catalan is spoken comprises 7 administrative districts, where it has different juridical status. These districts form part of 4 European states: Andorra, Spain (Catalonia, Valencia, Balearic Islands, and Aragon), France (Roussillon or Catalonia Norte) and Italy (d’Alguer). The majority of Catalan speakers live in Spain (about 10.500.000) and it is also there where the major part of the territory of Catalan language is situated.

The following table shows the distribution of the Catalan language in modern world:

Table 1. Distribution of the Catalan language
| Region |State |Area (km2) |Population |
|Andorra |Andorra |468 |64.311 |
|Catalonia |Spain |31.895 |6.090.040 |
|Balearic Islands |Spain |5.014 |760.379 |
|Valencia |Spain |23.291 |4.009.329 |
|Aragon |Spain |3.672. |50.000 |
|Roussillon |France |4.166 |369.476 |
|L’Alguer |Italy |224 |38.316 |
|Total | |68.730 |11.381.851 |

Source: Spanish territories, population statistics for 1996. Andorra, government statistics for 1994. Alguer and Northern Catalonia, Enciclopèdia Catalana 1994 figures.

According to the European Charter of regional and minority languages the term “regional or minority language” means “1) a language that is traditionally used on a certain territory of the state by the inhabitants of this state, that represent the smaller group than the population of the state; 2) a language that differ from the official language (or languages) of this state”.[3] Taking this into account the Catalan language is normally referred to as a minority language because it fits the definition given in the Charter. However we can hardly name Catalan the minority language because of the following reasons: 1. Its legal status. Catalan is an official language of an independent state – Andorra – an it is also an official language of a number of Spanish communities (comunidades autonomas); 2. The number of speakers. According to the number of speakers Catalan occupies the 9th place in the list of official languages of the EU after German (90,2 mln), French (62,7), English (62,2), Italian (57,4), Spanish (39,8), Polish (38,7), Romanian (22,5) and Dutch (21,2). All Catalan speakers represent 1/3 of all the speakers of minority languages. At the same time Catalan is not an official language of the EU. 3. Sociolinguistic situation. 95% of the population of Andorra, Catalonia and Balearic Islands and more than 80% of the population of Valencia understand Catalan. 4. The literary tradition and high cultural viability 5. The level of the language development. Catalan has its literary standard and norm, its grammar is standardized, the Institute of Catalan Studies carries out a great number of researches on lexicography, etymology, dialectology, terminology, onomastics and the history of language. The internal political process in Spain demonstrates the important political tendencies of growing national self-consciousness of Catalan “nation without state”. The principal political actors that support and develop the idea of political independence of Catalonia are the nationalist left party “Esquerra Unida” and conservative “Convergencia i Unio” party, both proclaiming the enlargement of the autonomy of this Spanish community and the recognition of the Catalan language and Catalan “nation” on the internal scale within Spain and in the world. The linguistic factor plays a very important role in structuring the activity of those political actors that tend to use the Catalan language as a kind of a shield to cover the implicit nationalist and separatist movements. Their struggle for the nation always starts with the struggle for the Catalan language which was prohibited during the Franco regime in Spain and almost disappeared from social spheres. After Franco’s death during the process of democratic restoration in 1983 the Law of linguistic normalization in Catalonia was issued. It officially named the new status of Catalan – the second official language on the territory of Catalonia. This law promoted teaching on Catalan in the system of secondary and higher education, using this language in day-to-day transactions of local administration and in local media. Through obtaining more rights for the Catalan language, the advocates of independent Catalan state also gain force and possibilities to express themselves and obtain the loyalty of the Catalan speakers. As a result of the work of Catalonian government – Generalitat – the Catalan language is now a widely spoken and developed second state language that is used by different social levels, it is now a powerful instrument of patriotic and nationalist political forces in Catalonia, Valencia and Balearic Islands. The linguistic factor – the fight for language rights – occupied an important place in the nationalist and separatist project of “catalanists”. From the year 1985 the Catalan government started a heated debate with the Spanish government concerning the evaluation of promoting/ceasing the development of catalan language, increase/decrease of the speakers of Catalan; the debates arose around the ethno-linguistic viability and language standard of this language. “The linguistic minority develops different types of counter-strategies aimed at weakening the forced nation unification, imposed by the State. These counter-strategies are the result of self-determination of minority group, they are able to develop and reinforce this self-determination process. Not an armed conflict, but cultural confrontation is the basic form of struggle against the imposed homogeneity”.[4] The cultural confrontation described by Montserrat Guibernau is the so called “war of languages” (la guerra de les llengües in catalan), which took place in Catalonia in 1980-s and 1990-s. The term “war of languages” can be used to describe the double-sided phenomenon: the growth of self-determination of Catalan nation and the development of intergroup political conflict. The bilateral confrontation between Catalan “fighters for language freedom” and collaborators of conservative Spanish parties soon grew into a language war without active armed operations or terrorist actions (polemics in media, demonstrations, public speeches, lobbying the Laws on language planning and standards etc.). The term “la guerra de les llengües” turned from a journalist cliché into a serious theoretical concept, denoting a real political and cultural phenomenon, the study of which goes beyond the sociolinguistic and philological limits. This notion can give us an important cognitive model, which can be used in theoretical social studies as well as in political practices of different states. Another demonstration of the importance of the role of language in the internal political process is the place which the linguistic issues occupy in the new regional constitution of Catalonia of 2006. It states that Catalans are “nation that constitute the multinational Spanish state”[5], that this nation possesses its own history, language and culture. This constitution provides wider financial, political and linguistic independence from Madrid, independence of judicial and legal systems, the right to make the modifications of state legal acts and laws. The Catalan government is currently trying to form the new Catalan identity, which is the identity of a “Catalan nation”, not of the Spanish nation. The fact is that this formation of Catalan identity does not lead to extreme separatism which is the case with Basque nationalists and separatists. The Catalan struggle for language and identity is more democratic, and the methods used by the supporters of catalanist project are more civilized though in many ways sophisticated. Today the government of Spain, lead by the prime-minister Jose Luis Rodrigez Sapatero, the former leader of the Socialist Party of Spain (PSOE), faces the difficult situation, because, from one hand, the government cannot support the split of the country, upholding the project of Catalan independence, from the other hand, they are afraid to lose the support of Catalan nationalist and patriotic party blocks in the parliament, where the socialists do not have the majority of seats. Today the Spanish government is developing favorable relationships with the Spanish regions, taking into account the growing role of sub-national actors on the international scale. After issuing and voting for the new regional constitution, the approval of the new Law of language of 1997 and Law of language policy of 1998, Catalonia now almost gained the right to the revival of “Catalan Countries”, a territory where the Catalan language is spread as a mother tongue.

This leads us to the second issue of my paper, which is the role of language in the international relations of sub-national unities and ethnic minorities. Once again, the basis of political integration of Catalan regions is formed by common culture, common history and common language. The sub-national integration of Catalan-speaking communities is realized with a help of Catalan language which represents a powerful instrument of integration and a resource for international activity. There are a lot of reasons and motives of Catalonia’s international activity: economic, political, social etc. Such international activity of sub-national regions is called “paradiplomacy” as opposed to “proto-diplomacy”, which is characterized as international activity of the state. Generally paradiplomacy is viewed by scholars as a part of foreign policy.[6] But we have to mention that it is used by organizations similar to states, it is carried out without state’s interference and often without their permission. In this paper the term “regional paradiplomacy” is used to define an international activity of the “territory, within the borders of which some political institutions are functioning, either regional (autonomic) forms of government (e.g. autonomic communities of Spain), or administrative bodies (e.g., regions of France)”.[7] The development of paradiplomacy of sub-national actors is influenced by two forms of international structures. The first one is represented by continental organizations. As an example we can take European Union, which generates favorable conditions for transboundary cooperation of regions. Such cooperation is supported due to the fact that the EU changed the essence of a European state after limiting some sectors of its sovereignty. This changed the traditional image of state as a solid and coherent formation which is the unique mediator between the internal and external spheres. The European policy which has to do with state structure turns regions into central elements of such policy and in potential actors of international relations. As a result of such policy some “nations without states” and some regions receive a broad support of their international activity in the flexible European context. The second type of entity that influences the paradiplomatic activity of regional actors is the State. The laws and procedures established within the state have excluded the entities other than state authorities from the sphere of international relations. The foreign policy traditionally belongs to the scope of state competence, being the last one the unique actor which is recognized by international organizations. After signing of the Maastricht Treaty it became possible for the representatives of the regions, or sub-national actors, to participate in national delegations in the Council of Europe. For example the representatives of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the lands of Germany and Austria, autonomies of Portugal take part in the European Commission sessions. A special case is the paradiplomacy of near-boundary or neighboring regions. The larger is the size of the country the more possibilities there exist for the regions that have the outlet to external border to experience the gravitation of their external neighbors, sometimes even to the prejudice of the intensity of the contacts with the “center”. This involves the gradual introduction of so called “euroregions” to the international scene, i.e. “the unity that implies direct contacts between neighboring or adjoining territories which form part of different states”.[8] Catalonian foreign policy represents a very vivid example of paradiplomatic activity of a sub-national actor in the sphere of trans-regional cooperation aimed at strengthening the region’s position on the international level and obtaining the status of fully recognized actor of international policy. The Catalan regional government develops paradiplomacy of cooperation, parallel to the foreign policy of the Spanish state, providing favorable investment climate for international companies, organizing special Catalan centers and representations abroad, promoting the studying of the Catalan language around the world, etc. Although the international interests of Catalonia are based on the economic aspects, the language policy of the regional Catalan government tends to achieve political, social and cultural goals as well, and the Catalan language serves as a means of the expansion of the region on European and world political scene. The major political parties of the region (Convergecia i Unio, Ezquerra Unida, Socialist Party) also support the idea of promotion of Catalan culture and language and growth of region’s international weight.

“We want to be the citizens of the world and to continue being Catalans. We must present ourselves to Europe as powerful Catalonia from the demographic, economical, cultural and political perspectives … The statehood is the only way of development that would allow us to enter the international scene without the daily struggle for the recognition of our rights in particular spheres and without the necessity to apologize or make excuses for that fact that we are who we are… Catalonia needs to conduct its own foreign policy…, reasonable paradiplomacy as the one that carries out Quebec”.[9]

In 1991 the presidents of Catalonia in Spain, Langedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pirenees in France signed the “Agreement on the creation of Euroregion” in Perpignan. But in 1990-s the idea of creation of such Euroregion couldn’t be materialized due to political reasons. In that time Spain and France were not ready to recognize the right of the regions to participate in international relations directly without the involvement of the Spanish central government. Already in the 21st century Catalonia and Roussillon initiated the process of integration of European regions within the borders of «Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion» which was supposed to become a territory of cooperation of various political, economic and cultural actors that develop their activities in such regions of European states as Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées, Aragon, Balearic Islands, Catalonia, Valencia, Andorra with total population of some 17 million people. This Euroregion is considered to be the field of elaboration of joint projects in the IT, communication, industry, technology, education, agriculture, sport, environment and other areas. The reasons why the creation of such Euroregion has become possible are the following: 1. The EU policy of «merging» planned for 2006-2013 provides grounds for balanced integration of European territories with the help of trans-boundary and trans-national cooperation. Due to this fact the European Comission proposed to introduce a new legal instrument of trans-boundary cooperation regulation (the «trans-boundary right of regions»[10]) which contributed to the development of various agreements between the neighboring regions. 2. A decentralization process started in France which was followed by providing more powers and possibilities to the regions of France. This fact stimulated their activity and in a way made it possible for them to develop some trans-regional international projects. 3. The socialist party of Spain that became a ruling party in 2004 guaranteed its regions (autonomies) the right of participation in international relations on the European level and proposed the integration of different European regions on the basis of bilateral agreements between neighboring countries (e.g. with France and Portugal). We can name some of the major achievements of «Pirenees-Mediterranean Euroregion»: • The Joan Luis Vives University Association, which unites the University of Perpignan and the Catalan Summer University; • The twin towns in Catalonia, Midi-Pyrénées and Roussillon; • EURES common job placement data base; • Investigations on solar energy, carried out by a multinational organization GESP; • The European congress devoted to the spread of the Catalan language in the world; • The «Mediterranean Arch» (EURAM) project that supports the relations between the companies of Mediterranean regions and states.

The project of «Pirenees-Mediterranean Euroregion» is open in geographical perspective. Its core is formed by the territories of Catalonia, Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées, Valencia and Balearic Islands; however the project does not exclude the possibility of integration of other Mediterranean regions, such as Murcia, Andalucia, regions of Marocco, as well as Provence and Valle del Rodano. Catalonia is the most active region in forming the international relations of all the 17 autonomic communities of Spain. Between 1983 and 2005 Catalonia signed more than 100 international agreements. The Catalan foreign policy, its cooperation with other countries and European regions is used as an instrument to form its own identity. Due to this international activity the world starts recognizing Catalonia as something more than a region of Spain. A very important issue from the political point of view is that the nucleus of this Euroregion is formed by the regions of Spain, France and Italy where the Catalan language is spread. So, the Catalan language here is a resource of the international activity of Catalonia. The language is also an instrument of integration and international interaction of these European regions that facilitates the communication between them and helps to develop the integration process within the borders of “Catalan Countries” (Paisos Catalans). These Catalan countries with the help of politico-linguistic institutes realize the language policy aimed at increasing the number of speakers and people who understand Catalan, increasing the presence of Catalan in all the spheres of social life, creating an integral structure of Catalan educational institutions and systematization and normalization of language. The regional governments of Catalan Countries unite their efforts in order to restore and reinforce the position of Catalan in the world. The governments of Catalonia and other Catalan-speaking territories carry out different types of conferences, meetings and congresses, where a variety of projects on the improvement of studying and teaching methods of Catalan language in colleges, universities, language study centers etc are presented. The official institutions responsible for promotion of Catalan in the world are The Institute of Catalan Studies, The Department of Language Policy of the Catalan Government.

The language policy determines the internal political process in Catalonia and its international perspectives on the territory of Catalan Countries and also the relationships between the region and the central government and the EU institutes. The promotion of the Catalan language and the struggle for the language rights first on the sub-national, then on the national and finally on the international level contributes to the unity of the Catalan nation within the state borders and within the borders of the European Union. In conclusion I’d like to say that in Europe the language plays a double role: from one side it represents the instrument and the resource of integration of European regions in the context of appearance of a great number of new non-governmental actors of international relations, from the other side, the language is a serious obstacle in forming the integral European identity. The linguistic issues cannot be overestimated, because they sometimes play a determining role in internal and foreign political process. Underestimating linguistic conflicts and failing to elaborate the language policy can lead to serious political crises, and the accurate application of language policy can offer a safe and rapid achievement of political goals.


• Aldecoa F. and Keating M. “Paradiplomacia: las relaciones internacionales de las regiones.” Madrid: Marcial Pons, 1999. • Blommaert J. “Language and Politics, Language Politics, Political Linguistics.” In Belgian Journal of Linguistics, 1997. - №11. – P. 1-8. • Calvet J.-L. “Language Wars and Linguistic Policy.” Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998. • “Catalan, language of Europe” In Entitat Autónoma del Diary I de Publicacions. Barcelona: Generalitat de Catalunya, Departament de Cultura, 2001. • Coulmas F. “European Integration and the Idea of National Language” In A Language Policy for the European Community: Prospects and Quandaries, ed. by F. Coulmas, 1-37. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1991. • Duchacek, I. “The Territorial Dimension of Politics”. London: Westview Press, 1986. • Duchacek I., Soldatos P. “Perforated Sovereignties: Towards New Actors in International Relations. An explanatory framework for the study of federated states as foreign policy actors.” Oxford: 1990. • “Enclaves linguisticos en la Unión Europea. V Simposio internacional de lenguas europeas y legislaciones.” Barcelona: Edita CIEMEN, 2002. • Keating M. “Nations Against the State, The New Politics of Nationalism in Quebec, Catalonia and Scotland.” (2nd ed.) Basingstoke: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2001. • Lecours A. “Paradiplomacy: Reflections on the Foreign Policy and International Relations of Regions.” In International Negotiation. – 2002, №7. • Lecours A. and Moreno L. “Paradiplomacy: A Nation-Building Strategy?” In Conditions of Diversity in Multinational Democracies edited by Gagnon A.-G., Guibernau M., Rocher F. Montreal: IRPP/McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003 • Makarychev A. “Russian regions and globalization.” Nizhny Novgorod: Nizhegorodsky Universitet, 2001. • Michelmann H.J. and Soldatos P. (eds.) “Federalism and International Relations. The Role of Subnational Units”. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. • Plens J. “Ciutadania de Catalunya (etnicitat, nacionalisme i llengua)”. Cartagena, Terragona: Ed. El Medol, 2003. • Soldatos P. “Cascading Sub-National Paradiplomacy in an Interdependent and Transitional World” In States and Provinces in the International Economy. Vol. 2 of the North American Federal Рroject edited by V. Brown, M. Douglas, J. Earl, H. Fry., 112-135. Institute of Government Studies Press, 1993.

[1] The phenomenon of paradiplomacy was studied in the works of F. Aldecoa, M. Keating, I. Duchacek, P. Soldatos, A. Lecours, L. Moreno, H.J. Michelmann.
[2] See, for example, Plens J. Ciutadania de Catalunya (etnicitat, nacionalisme i llengua). – Cartagena, Terragona: Ed. El Medol, 2003.

[3] European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Strasbourg, 5.XI.1992

[4] Guibernau M. Nacionalismes. L’Estat nació i el nacionalisme al sigle XX. – Barcelona: Ed. Proa, 1997. – p.160.
[5] The Catalan Statute (Estatut de catalunya), 2006. Generalitat de Catalunya. (

[6] Soldatos P. An Explanatory Framework for the Study of Federated States as Foreign-policy Actors, // H. J. Michelmann & P. Soldatos (ed.), Federalism and International Relations. The Role of Subnational Units. – Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999.
[7] See Duchacek, I. The Territorial Dimension of Politics. - London: Westview Press, 1986. – p. 31.
[8][ Makarychev A. Russian regions and globalization. – Nizhny Novgorod: Nizhegorodsky Universitet, 2001. – p. 26.
[9] The speech pronounced by the President of Left Republican Party of Catalonia (Partido Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) Carod-Rovira J.-L. On April 27, 2005. Published in the Internet journal La Factoria №27, May-August 2005.
[10] Eurorregión Pirineos-Mediterráneo. Dossier de prensa. – Barcelona: Generalitat de Catalunya. 2003

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